In the first meeting between the schools since 1970 - and first ever as SoCon rivals - Mercer led The Citadel almost wire-to-wire in an impressive 74-51 victory over the Bulldogs on Saturday at Hawkins Arena in Macon, Ga.
Forced to adjust its usual rotation due to four players limited by illness, The Citadel (7-9, 2-3 SoCon) still shot 65 percent in the first half and trailed just 40-31 at halftime, but Mercer (9-9, 4-1 SoCon) overwhelmed the weary Bulldogs on both ends after the break by way of a 17-2 mid-half run while holding The Citadel to just 37 percent shooting in the half and a mere 1-for-9 from downtown.
"No excuses. Mercer's a really good basketball team," said Citadel head coach Chuck Driesell, whose squad finished a stretch of four games in eight days. "They really put it to us and made us play poorly."
Mercer received 15 points from Ike Nwamu, while Phillip Leonard registered added 13 points, five rebounds and a game-high eight assists, as the Bears shot 52 percent overall.
The Bears owned The Citadel on the boards, 30-21 - including 13 on the offensive end - while committing just three turnovers and forcing 12 Bulldog miscues which resulted in 19 Mercer points.
Brian White finished as the only Bulldog in double figures with 10 points (5-of-5 shooting) and six rebounds. Ashton Moore was held to just 2-of-9 shooting for a season-low five points but dished out a season-best six assists.
Quinton Marshall's basket at the 19:03 mark of the first half gave The Citadel its lone lead at 2-0 before the Bears assumed complete control through a 14-2 run for a 16-6 lead with 13:10 left in the half.
That double-figure cushion lasted for nearly the duration of the half before Moore hit his only 3 of the night with four seconds remaining to get the Bulldogs within nine at 40-31 at halftime.
Even though The Citadel substantially outshot Mercer (65 percent to 48 percent) and nailed 5-of-7 from downtown over the first 20 minutes, the Bulldogs allowed more offensive rebounds (10) then they had total rebounds (9), turned the ball over eight times while forcing only one, and did not attempt a single free throw against Mercer's defense.
"They've got a lot of maturity about them and play real solid basketball," Driesell said of Mercer. "They are a better team than we are right now."
P.J. Horgan's basket at the 16:35 mark of the second half made for a 48-37 Mercer lead, but the Bears made six of their first seven shots of the half and held the Bulldogs to just one field goal over the next 10 minutes in expanding the margin to 65-39.
The Citadel shot 50 percent overall for the fourth straight game for the first time since the start of the 2012 season and assisted on 17 of its 22 made field goals.
The Bulldogs take to the court again on Thursday when they host defending league champion Wofford for a 6 p.m. tip at McAlister Field House.